This half term Chris and myself went time travelling. Back, back through the ages to a time BC – Before Children. A time when we used to ride our mountain bikes together, enjoying each other’s company. A time when we would stop when we wanted or needed to stop, and ride when we wanted to ride. A time when we could concentrate on our riding technique. We could talk if we wanted to, ride in silence if not. A time when we would stop and look at a stunning view and ride past a play area.
Yes – we have been MOUNTAIN BIKING WITHOUT THE BOYS!!!!! And not just once, but for TWO CONSECUTIVE DAYS!!!!!!
What caused this incredible feat I hear you cry! (obviously without a hint of jealousy)
Please allow me to explain.
Our local British Cycling coach arranged two days of Mountain Bike Holiday school for junior British Cycling members on the Monday and Tuesday of half term. The Monday session was held at Gisburn Forest in Lancashire, and the second, on the Tuesday, was at Grizedale Forest in the Lake District, Cumbria. As we live roughly equidistant between the two forests we were ideally placed for both sessions. Each ran from 11am to 3pm giving four hours of child free time!
Now, we could have been sensible and one of us taken the boys and the other worked, but how often does the opportunity arise to get child free time together on the trails??? We decided to seize the opportunity and have two days of mountain biking without the boys.
The first day we left the boys in the capable hands of the British Cycling coaches, and after some discussion in the car park they rode off.
It was a weird moment realising we were free to ride where ever we wanted to, at what ever speed we wanted to! We set off with another dad and his friend to ride the red trails at Gisburn Forest – completely child free.
After about 15 minutes of riding the inevitable happened……
Chris got a puncture and precious minutes were lost fixing this. We agreed the other two should go on. However, even fixing a puncture without kids around is different. No need to keep an eye on little people getting bored and riding off to find something more exciting to do. No need to dispense snacks or keep the peace. Just replace the inner tube and ride on.
We got about three and a quarter hours of glorious riding on the first day. We rode the southern part of the red 8 loop for those of you who know Gisburn Forest.
The reason it took us so long was that we did something we’ve never done before.
If at first you don’t succeed…..
When we got to a tricky bit rather than concentrating on getting the boys up or down it without incident we were able to stop and practise our skills. At some points we had several attempts, and at one particularly tricky piece of rock I must have tried (and failed) about ten times to get to the top, working out which techniques and gears worked better than others.
I was able to concentrate purely on my own riding, scanning the trail and picking my line to immerse myself totally in my own riding. I had forgotten what that feels like, as I’ve had a decade of thinking about what someone else is doing as I’m riding along. Whether the boys have been on our bikes on a bike seat, pulled behind with the tagalong or FollowMe tandem, or riding their own bikes, there has always been someone else to think about and listen to.
It was bliss to be able to concentrate on my own cycling, and shocking to realise how rusty I’ve become on the more technical aspects of my riding.
It was great to be able to discuss sections of the trail with Chris and to have the time to practice them over and over. It was liberating to choose when we took breaks and which views we wanted to stop and look at.
Practice makes (almost) perfect!
As the time passed I found myself feeling more and more confident on the bike. When we got to the final red section, a newly built section called “Swoopy”, I managed to get down first time the nasty bit of rock I’d had to push down with the boys a couple of weeks previously. Suffice to say, the feeling of elation was brilliant!!!
When our 4 hours were up we’d cycled a lot less than we’d anticipated (I think we’d both thought we’d do the entire red loop). However, having had all the practise sessions more than compensated for this. We met up with the boys, who’d had a brilliant and tiring day, and normality resumed.
It was fabulous to have the luxury of time to concentrate on our own riding. Being realistic, this is something we’ll have to do with increasing regularity if we stand any chance of keeping up with the boys as their stamina, technique and wheel size increase over the coming years!
To find out how Chris and I got on the following day, read our blog on Riding the North Face Mountain Bike Trail at Grizedale Forest without the kids
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Mountain Biking at Gisburn Forest
Gisburn Forest is situated in the heart of the Forest of Bowland in north east Lancashire. There is a brilliant skills loop and blue and red mountain biking trails. Further details are available from the Forestry Commission website.